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Diary From The COVID-19 Frontlines: ‘The Edge Of The Pandemic’ 

A close up of a real test kit for Covid-19 at Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Newton, Massachusetts. Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images
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“Diary From The Covid-19 Frontlines” is an ongoing series of dispatches from health care workers.

When Andrea Austin, an ER physician in downtown Los Angeles, started her shift on Sunday afternoon, things were different than usual.

“It started off really slow,” she told me by phone Monday. Usually, she said, there are about 40 to 50 patients being seen in the emergency department at any given time. But not this shift.

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“When I came in, there were only six patients in the entire emergency department. But half of them were intubated, which is very odd, and was very alarming.”

Two were highly suspected COVID patients, and the other patient was awaiting test results, she said.

She told me she’d been hearing about the same scenario from ER doctors in New York: The ER’s were pretty empty with non-COVID patients, but COVID patients had started trickling in.

“I think we're definitely seeing the edge of this pandemic, starting to rear its head in Los Angeles,” she said.

On a positive note, she told me she thinks people are doing a good job about staying home, and only going out when necessary.

“I think it's impacting trauma volumes quite a bit that people are just less likely to fall off their bike or off their scooter because they're staying indoors more,” she said.

She said she was also encouraged about the supply of personal protective equipment, which seemed better than the week before.

As for what’s next? Austin told me she’s hoping that factors like social distancing, which started early in California compared to other states, will help stem the number of cases.

“But realistically from what I'm already seeing, like the number of respiratory complaints and how sick some of the patients were, I think we are going to see a greatly increased number of these patients.”